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Help for dyslexia 'comes too late'

Parents of dyslexic children in state schools feel let down - unlike those who use the private sector. Karen Thornton reports

SUPPORT FOR dyslexic pupils in state schools is still "too little too late" according to parents, despite rising public awareness of the reading difficulty.

More than 60 per cent of 756 parents surveyed by the Dyslexia Institute said their children did not receive enough school support.

And the British Dyslexia Association says a quarter of calls to its national helpline are from parents complaining their children's schools do not recognise the reading difficulty.

The findings come as new research - to be featured in a TV documentary next week - suggests that up to 50 per cent of young offenders could be dyslexic.

Failure to diagnose the condition can lead to academic under-achievement and sometimes difficult behaviour. Yet, with appropriate teaching, dyslexic pupils can make good progress.

Liz Brooks, director of the Dyslexia Institute, said more specific government action was needed to tackle difficulties such as dyslexia, if ministers were to achieve their literacy targets.

Only 11 per cent of parents in the institute's survey said their children were given extra assistance by the class teacher, but more than 60 per cent using independent schools were satisfied with the help provided.

"Many of our parents were very disappointed with their schools. While teachers are trying to be more understanding, there seems to be a long way to go to bridge the gap which exists between acknowledgement and recognition of dyslexia and the progressive work the institute is doing in schools," said Mrs Brooks.

The BDA said parents calling its helpline had often been told by schools that problems were due to children's laziness, naughtiness, or lack of concentration.

Joanne Rule, the association's chief executive, said: "It is frustrating listening to helpline calls like this when you consider how valuable it is to identify dyslexia early and just how much can be done to prevent it becoming a serious problem."

Education minister Charles Clarke was this week meeting representatives of the major dyslexia charities, support organisations and schools, for a "frank, no-holds-barred" discussion of the most practical ways to help dyslexic pupils.

Similar sessions are planned for other areas of special needs, including autism and emotional and behavioural difficulties.

A spell on the inside, 26 Dyslexic Criminals is on Channel 4 at 8.30pm next Monday

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